Portland, led by the likes of Batum and Lillard, tied a season-best winning steak by capturing their third consecutive victory at the Rose Garden.
Though the Blazers led by as many as 16 in the second half, the Hornets refused to fold, eventually tying the game in the in the final minute. It took an insanely rare 5x5 effort from Batum (recording at least five points/assists/rebounds/steals/blocks) and a cold-blooded game-winner from Lillard to secure the victory.
Such dramatics undoubtedly made for good TV, but it also made for some great Twitter reading, as Batum- and Lillard-inspired tweets ran rampant throughout the social media world.
Even Lillard himself got in on the party, though his sentiments came prior to tip off, leaving me to wonder whether he had a premonition about what was about to happen:
We gone take it to the moon, we gone take it to staaaaaaars !!— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) December 16, 2012
I'm no psychic, but I'm going to have to conclude that Lillard is no psychic either. After all, how could he be privy to what the Blazers themselves noted was one of the sickest stat lines of the last decade before it happened?
Nicolas Batum is the first @nba player with at least 10 assists, five steals and five blocks in a game since Jamaal Tinsley on Nov. 16, 2001— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) December 17, 2012
Crazy? Of course it is. Even more crazy? As John Schuhmann of NBA.com noted, that wasn't even the most impressive notion about Batum's stat line:
Batum is also 1 rebound shy of the first 5x5 game since Kirilenko on 1/3/06.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 17, 2012
Batum eventually got that one rebound, completing the 5x5 performance, ensuring that he joined the company of Andrei Kirilenko and The Admiral David Robinson, among others:
Batum is 8th player since '86-87 to record a 5x5. Hakeem: 5 times. Kirilenko: 3 times. Also Admiral, Derrick Coleman, Divac, Tinsley, Camby— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 17, 2012
Given this was the first 5x5 performance in over five years, words cannot even express how incredible a feat it was. Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm does a good job of trying, though:
Whoa, 5X5!— Noam Schiller (@noamschiller) December 17, 2012
Unfortunately for the Blazers, Batum's heroics didn't come without a price. That price, as Candace Buckner of The Columbian reported, proved to be operating without star forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the waning moments of the game:
LaMarcus Aldridge just left the court— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) December 17, 2012
Aldridge's personal assessment of what turned out to be a left ankle sprain didn't help things either:
"It's hurting pretty bad, can't really walk on it." -- LaMarcus Aldridge on his left ankle sprain— Ben Golliver (@blazersedge) December 17, 2012
Luckily for Portland—and Aldridge—his X-rays came back negative, so there is some solace to be found there:
Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge (left ankle sprain): X-rays are negative.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) December 17, 2012
And yet, if Batum's 5x5 and Aldridge's X-rays weren't enough to eclipse such an unfavorable turn of events, the first game-winner of Damian Lillard's career absolutely had to be:
Damian Lillard knocks down 3 before the buzzer for his first game-winning shot in the NBA.— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) December 17, 2012
After the game, in fact, Aldridge himself couldn't hide how grateful he was for Lillard's end-of-game heroics:
"I thought he made a really big shot. The Basketball Gods were with us. " -- LaMarcus Aldridge on Damian Lillard— Ben Golliver (@blazersedge) December 17, 2012
Aldridge's partner in the paint, Meyers Leonard, was anything but short on appreciation as well, predicting that this was the first of many game-winners for the rookie point guard:
Batum, the 5x5 man himself, also conveyed his gratitude for what the neophyte was able to do before the final buzzer:
Fellow rookie and point guard Will Barton also dropped some words of thanks for his comrade. He also dropped some words of thanks for himself in the process:
Barton on Lillard: "Yeah, he’s the Rookie of the Year – except when I look into the mirror." I capital letters LOVE Barton's confidence— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) December 17, 2012
Lillard's deep-ball accolades also prompted CBS Sports' Zach Harper to pose a question, complete with illustration, that everyone already knew the answer to:
Hey Damian Lillard, whose mother-expletive gym is it? twitpic.com/bmohmx— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) December 17, 2012
Almost needless to say, should we have really been surprised by Lillard's game-winner? I mean, not only did he tweet what turned about to be some telling sentiments, but the kid also dons shoes with wings:
The rookie is fly to death ... Nice shoes, Dame twitter.com/blazerbanter/s…— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) December 17, 2012
Let's not forget, though, that this wasn't only a game of firsts for Lillard.
Batum's 5x5 was not only the first of his career, but he is the first Blazers player ever to record 10 assists, five steals and five blocks in a single game:
Nicolas Batum is the first ever Trail Blazer to record at least 10 assists, five steals and five blocks in a game (Elias).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) December 17, 2012
If we take only one thing away from Batum and Lillard's performances, let it be the fact that no good deed must go unrewarded. Just ask Batum himself:
@ Voodoo Doughnuts. Yes i deserve it! twitter.com/nicolas88batum…— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) December 17, 2012
Yes, Batum certainly did deserve to indulge on some colorfully crafted pastries. And so did Lillard.
Because they both played cheat-night-after-the-game good.
All stats in this article are accurate as of December 17, 2012.